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Consumer Mood Brightens a Little


May 4 — After taking a gloomy turn in March, consumer attitudes brightened a little last month, but remain lower than they began the year, according to the results of two recent consumer polls.

The monthly Reuter's/University of Michigan consumer sentiment index hit 69.8 at the end of April, up from 67.5 in March. In February, before the earthquake in Japan and sharply rising oil prices, the index stood at 77.5, which was a high point in the current economic recovery.

Consumer inflation expectations remained unchanged last month. One-year expectations are 4.6%, notably higher than the 2.9% reading in February.

The April Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index, which dropped in March, rose 1.6 points to 65.4. The Index in Februrary stood at 70.4 following two monthly increases.

The Present Situation Index increased to 39.6 from 37.5. Consumer expectations for the next six months rose more than a full point, to 82.6 from 81.3 in March.

Consumers' reading of present-day conditions improved slightly. The number that termed current business conditions "good” declined by 0.2% to 14.8% and those calling conditions "bad” also dropped by 0.2% to 36.4%. The number that say jobs are "hard to find” declined to 41.8% from 44.4% the previous month, while those calling jobs "plentiful” rose from 4.6% to 5.2%

"Consumer confidence, which had declined sharply in March, posted a modest gain in April,” said Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center . "Consumers' short-term outlook improved slightly, suggesting that the uncertainty expressed last month is easing. Inflation expectations, which had spiked, retreated somewhat in April. Although confidence remains weak, consumers' assessment of current conditions gained ground for the seventh straight month, a sign that the economic recovery continues.”

Read the full Conference Board news release.